Ask Margot-Talking with kids about marriage

After her divorce, her sons were turned off by the sacrament of marriage. What can she do to change their minds... and open their cynical hearts?

By Margot Carmichael Lester

i Margot,
What do you do when your children are turned off from the sacrament of marriage? I divorced their Dad after 13 years of marriage, and he remarried shortly thereafter. Now, their Dad is getting a divorce from his current wife of almost three years. My sons (ages 12 & 15) seem to be numb and indifferent to the subject of marriage. They both feel that it’s a joke, and whenever there is any marriage-speak amongst family or friends, they are cynical, sarcastic and insensitive to the subject. I have
I want my sons to experience loving, healthy, wonderful relationships.
asked them to hold off on throwing in the towel on the concept of marriage. I advised them that they can be the gold standard as to what a healthy marriage should look like. Every day I tell them how much I love them. I try to surround them with loving people who have healthy relationships so that they can see that a couple of bad experiences (with me and their Dad), is definitely not the norm and doesn’t represent all the great relationships out there. When the time comes, and if it’s their choice, I want my sons to experience loving, healthy, wonderful relationships with their respective spouses.
— A Mother with High Hopes…

Dear High Hopes,
First of all, keep those hopes high. Second, remember that your kids are 12 and 15. Tweens and teens are turned off to a whole lot of things! They’re rebellious by nature and disinclined toward things that smack of tradition, orthodoxy and institutions. In a phrase, they are just growing up — and rather normally at that.

You’re right that your boys need time to heal, so you might as well start giving them that time right now. Don’t talk about marriage or family life so much. Just love them as you obviously do, and, as you put it, “Every day I tell them how much I love them. I try to surround them with loving people who have healthy relationships...”

You may have just given yourself the best advice right there.

In all likelihood, your sons will start dating in the coming years. And as a result of this process, they’ll quickly develop their own ideas about relationships — ideas that will far outweigh the secondhand experience they’re having now. As they head off to college and into their 20s, many of their attitudes will change. So what should you do now? Encourage, but don’t nag. Help them learn how to treat a lady, how to be gentlemen, and how to learn from your relationship mistakes. Seeing what happened to their parents may
Maybe Mr. Right will come along and complete the picture.
make them a little afraid to commit, so you can be really supportive there and encourage them to take chances. When things don’t work out — as they often don’t for teenage love — you’ll be able to share from your rich repository of tools and techniques for dealing with the pain and moving on.

Speaking of moving on, you still have the opportunity to be in another relationship — maybe even a marriage. Don’t underestimate the impact of their seeing you in a healthy romantic partnership. Through you, your kids could see what good relationships look like and how they bring joy into a household. You may yet hold the key to your sons’ attitudes about marriage. Don’t count yourself out just because things aren’t going well right at the moment.

How do I know all this? Well, my parents had three failed marriages between them. But after meeting each other they raised a loving family and stayed together until my father passed away. But they still provided a wonderful example of what a healthy marriage can be. And if that’s not enough for you, my husband’s parents divorced when he was five, he had a divorce when he was 35, I had a divorce when I was 36, and we have what I think is the best darn marriage in the whole wide world.

You sound like a terrific mom, and (aside from worrying a little too much about your boys) you seem to be doing all the right things to help them enjoy a stable and satisfying family life. Maybe Mr. Right will come along and complete the picture. But he won’t be there if you don’t start looking for him.

Give it a shot, and let me know it goes.

Margot Carmichael Lester is a freelance writer based in the Bible belt state of North Carolina. Send your faith-based dating questions to
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